Sanders goes distance to down Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. -- Converted from the closer to Sunday starter, Alabama senior right-hander Shane Sanders was certainly the stopper Sunday afternoon, pitching the No. 5 ranked Crimson Tide back into first place in the Southeastern Conference standings with a 4-2 win over the Georgia Bulldogs at Frank Foley Field.

Sanders (7-1) limited the Bulldogs to two runs and six hits en route to his first career complete game. He added two walks and four strikeouts as he threw 120 total pitches.

The Cullman native was seemingly in control from the start, allowing only two pop-fly home runs and limited the Bulldogs to eight base runners.

"I was able to be successful because of throwing first pitch strikes," Sanders said. "I threw strikes and let my defense make the plays behind me. The whole key was getting ahead of their hitters."

In his last five outings, Sanders has allowed only seven runs in his last 32 2/3 innings on the mound, compiling a 1.98 ERA. In his last seven Sunday starts, Sanders has allowed only eight earned runs in 42 1/3 innings for a 1.66 ERA. Alabama improved to 10-3 in Sanders 13 career starts.

In addition, Alabama (40-9, 17-7 SEC) posted its 40th win of the season to become the 11th team in school history with 40 wins. This is the seventh 40-win season in eight years under Wells.

The win also propels Alabama back into first place in the over all SEC race, one-half game ahead of South Carolina (37-11, 16-7 SEC). The Gamecocks suffered a 4-2 loss at home Sunday to Ole Miss (35-13, 14-10 SEC), who remains three games back of Alabama in the Western Division race. LSU (33-16, 14-9 SEC) defeated Tennessee on Sunday to remain in second place in the Western Division, 2 1/2 games behind Alabama.

After falling behind 2-1 in the fourth inning, Alabama grabbed a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning with two runs off Georgia starter Mickey Westphal. Peter Stonard blooped a single to left to lead off the inning and scored on Jeremy Brown’s second triple of the season that rolled into the left field corner. Brent Boyd followed with a deep fly ball to left field, scoring Brown from third with the sacrifice fly.

Brown's run-scoring triple was his first hit of the series against the Bulldogs. It also marked Brown’s first RBI since April 20 against Ole Miss, covering eight games and 27 official at-bats.

Boyd's sacrifice fly gives him the game-winning RBI in each of Alabama’s last five wins. He had three game winners last week against Auburn and also had the game-winning RBI in Wednesday’s win over UAB.

"I am thankful for the win," Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "It was a tough weekend. We did not swing the bats at all and we ran the bases very poorly.

"Sanders did a great job today and kept us in the game with our limited bullpen. He was the reason we were able to win the game."

The Crimson Tide added an insurance run in support of Sanders' cause in the seventh inning to take a 4-2 lead.

Gabe Scott led off the inning with single through the left side of the infield and moved to second on Allen Rice's sacrifice bunt. Scott McClanahan was hit by a pitch, putting runners on the corners. Adam Pavkovich was called on to bunt for the second time in the game and laid down a safety squeeze. UG pitcher Mickey Westphal fielded the bunt and tossed to Sammons at home to retire Scott on a disputed call at the plate.

Stonard followed with the bloop single to left that was lost in the sunlight by Chaz Lytle. McClanahan scored on the play and Pavkovich moved to third, but Stonard was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double to end the inning.

Westphal (4-3) worked seven innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits for the Bulldogs. He added two walks, two strikeouts and hit one batter. He left after throwing 111 pitches.

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs played home run derby through the first four innings as Georgia took a 2-1 lead.

Alabama right fielder Travis Garner smacked a solo home run in the third inning to stake UA to a 1-0 lead. It was Garner's fifth home run of the season and fourth on the road. The home run extended his hitting streak to seven games.

Georgia tied the game in the bottom of the third inning on Clint Sammons home run that just cleared the wall in left center field. It Sammons fourth home run of the season and first since Mar. 22 at Vanderbilt.

In the fourth inning, Adam Swann gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead with a pop fly home run that just cleared the wall in right field Swann, who homered to beat Alabama in the 11th inning Saturday, hit his ninth home run of the season on Sunday.

Stonard had three hits to pace Alabama's eight-hit attack, while Chaz Lytle paced the Bulldogs with two hits. They were the only two players with more than one hit on Sunday.

The Crimson Tide will be off all this week for final exams for the Spring Semester. Alabama will return to action this Friday, May 10 against the Miss. State Bulldogs. The series opener begins at 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series continues Saturday, May 11 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 12 at 2 p.m.

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